Musky fly fishing has become so popular that it is almost common to find someone in your fly fishing circle who fly fishes for muskies almost exclusively. The payoff with musky on the fly is a toothy fish with arguably the biggest appetite of any species taken on a fly, pound for pound. There are a lot of barriers that get in the way of success, when it comes to fly fishing for muskies. The scarcity of fish, the huge flies, accessing where muskies live, and even handling the fish once it has been caught are all challenges for most fly anglers. To aid in your musky fly fishing, there are a handful of anglers who really know as much as any angler in the world. Rick Kustich is one of these anglers, and he brings decades of experience in musky fly fishing. His new book is now the standard for musky fly fishing and is filled with lots of musky knowledge. In this podcast, he discusses all things musky and, particularly, how to tackle specific types of water.
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KEY TAKEAWAYS: MUSKY FLY FISHING
BASICS OF HUNTING MUSKIES WITH A FLY
- Have proper expectations when fishing for muskies.
- In general, practice weight training and exercise regularly, practice your casting, and possibly use a two-handed rod to be able to keep yourself on the water with as much comfort as possible.
- Use follows and other musky encounters as victories and as valuable knowledge for the next time you’re out. Learn from these experiences.
- Muskies are at the top of the food chain, have a swagger, and are quite curious.
- Triggering fish is incredibly important, particularly at the boat.
FINDING ACTIVE MUSKIES
- Timing is hugely important for finding active muskies since they eat larger meals most of the time, so they don’t have to eat as often.
- Moon rises and sets are prime times for musky.
- Rick’s go-to method is to fish prime spots, trying to find the most aggressive fish.
- Possibly fish those prime spots multiple times per day.
- At key times, like when muskies pod up in the winter, you can spend a lot of time on these particular places, even anchoring here.
- Bait is critical to finding muskies, and the bait are attracted to places like weedbeds, i.e., cover/structure where the food chain can thrive.
- Visual food-chain activity in general is really important too.
- Musky “prime lies” with depth and cover/structure are great places to spend your efforts.
FLIES FOR MUSKY FLY FISHING
- Small flies are often good early in the season (post spawn).
- Begin with natural colors in clear water and in general. Then experiment after this.
- Action is hugely important. Kick/walk-the-dog action is a must.
- Multiple shanks and a larger head help achieve great fly action.
- Rick often begins with 10 to 12 inch flies.
- Use smaller flies if the fish aren’t committing.
- Use smaller, less wind resistant flies when you are tired.
AT THE BOAT
- Water temperature dictates retrieve speed as much, if not more, than prey items.
- Getting fish to lock in is critical to converting fish at the boat.
- Retrieve right up to the shock tippet/wire knot at the rod.
- Rick retrieves his fly with his rod tip about two feet under the water before he goes into his figure eight.
- Rick uses 2 to 4 figure eights, and maybe even 6, if the fish are coming in lazy.
- He often just does a big oval with wide turns for his “figure eight.”
- Give the fish a side profile with the fly.
- He speeds up the fly going into his figure eight.
- The turn is very important, and he speeds up on the turn.
- Use the proper sink tip.
- Possibly use a weighted fly if there is current.
- Count down the tip so that you’re in the bottom third of the pool.
- Possibly slow down the retrieve to keep the fly down.
- Concentrate on unique structural and cover features of the pool.
DROP-OFFS AND BOULDERS
- Rick fishes from shallow into deep water.
- Boulders are important for creating soft water, particularly in current, which is hugely important for muskies.
- Reefs are drop offs/humps with their own ecosystem.
- Similar to drop offs in that he casts to the deep water.
SANDY BAYS AND BARS
- Early in the season, smaller flies are normally effective.
- Lead the fish a lot in sight fishing scenarios.
- Dams and breakwalls are almost always very good places to try.
WEEDBEDS AND WEED EDGES
- Possibly the most productive cover/structure to find muskies.
- Whenever you find weeds, fish them.
- If you encounter heavy weed growth, concentrate on the edges by deep water.
- Thick weedbeds with water over them to around 6 to 10 feet can be extremely productive.
- Also, pockets in thick weedbeds can be great too.
TIMBER AND BRUSH
- Always give timber and brush good coverage.
- Make multiple casts at different positions, and don’t cast to the same spot multiple times.
- It is incredibly important for small to medium sized rivers, but should always be a focal point.
- Fallen logs are great places for muskies.
LINKS AND RESOURCES FOR THE PODCAST
Musky fly fishing is an extreme form of fly fishing. With advancements in gear and in musky fly fishing tactics, we are more capable of catching muskies on the fly than ever before. Many, many muskies on the fly over 50 inches have come to hand, with the current world record measuring in at 57 inches. You yourself may be an unsuspecting victim of the musky bug, when, after hours of launching wet socks, you experience that first musky on the fly. That one musky might be enough for you, but then again, “normal” fly fishing life may have just ceased, and you may now count yourself as one of the ever increasing obsessive musky bums. If you’ve already done this, you know where you stand full well. Either way, life is better than ever when fly fishing for muskies.
What fly is that picture in this article? Excellent read.
This is Joe Goodspeed’s fly. He has both a flat and a full version that he ties, and I’ve seen the flat one at least on Fullingmill’s website. It’s usually called Joe’s Flathead Shad or Sucker, etc. Not sure about the different shapes of heads as far as availability. You can see some pictures in Rick’s book too, and Joe posts a lot on his Instagram account. Hope that helps, and thanks for dropping by!
Thanks! I was going to research further to see what material is used to seal the head like that, I have a lot of flies, that’s one I’d like to add. Thank you for the prompt response!
My pleasure, Brad! Good luck with your fishing this summer!